It’s been quite awhile since I blogged –– 16 months actually. I stopped when a friend and long-time yoga practitioner told me that she found my blogs to be “cute.”
I was devastated. To me, “cute” is associated with babies and bunnies and puppies. Suddenly, the meaningful self-discoveries I shared in the interest of helping others along their own path to samadhi (enlightenment) seemed infantile, sophomoric and silly. In other words, it shut me up in a hurry. Of course, I have no idea what she meant when she said it was “cute” because I didn’t ask. (More on that later.) Instead, I went to a place that I know well. The place where I tell myself I’m not good enough.
Do you know that place? Well, I don’t know about you, but I have become pretty tired of going there!
I knew in my head that I was supposed to find acceptance within myself, not others, but I just couldn’t completely internalize it. I “doubled-down” on my meditation practice. I chanted mantras. I practiced self-compassion and self-care. But nothing really moved the proverbial needle until I started doing shadow work.
The pain and suffering we see in the world around us are often mirrored by our internal pain and suffering. Shadow work invites us to shine a light on the parts of ourselves that we push away or hide from, and to embrace those parts of ourselves as a necessary aspect of being a whole person. Often the work is done with an experienced counselor or psychotherapist, and may also be done on one’s own or in conjunction with our yoga practice.
How does yoga help? Because we are spirits having a human experience, our bodies are how we interact with the world around us. What we experience with our bodies doesn’t lie, but our minds can make up all kinds of stories about the experience that may or may not be at all accurate! When we begin to master our understanding of our own bodies, we can begin to identify subtle changes that occur when our mind starts doing its work to make sense of the physical experience. We learn to trust those “gut feelings,” our intuition. This awareness then invites us to examine the roots of our avidyā (incorrect comprehension), and ultimately helps us to free ourselves from the negative grip that it has on us. This form of svadhyaya (self-study) can also uncover our hidden strengths!
Welcoming my shadow back into my life has given me a much deeper understanding of my strengths and my dharma, and an ability to be more open, honest and forgiving of my weaknesses. In other words, I finally understand what it means to have self-compassion! More importantly, by cultivating this self-compassion, I find it to be much easier to extend that compassion to others.
So why does this have me blogging again? And what does it have to do with an aversion to being received as “cute?” Overcoming some of my avidya has helped me to find my voice again. By welcoming my shadow back into my life, I no longer feel the need to run and hide when I receive feedback that conflicts with my ego’s perception. Instead, I can speak up and ask, “What?! Why?!” And listen to the response with an open heart and an open mind. In other words, it has pretty much cleared my blocked throat chakra! Maybe you’ve even noticed that I haven’t been losing my voice and clearing my throat as often in class lately?
Although we explore the foundations of shadow work in all of my adult group yoga classes, it can be most beneficial when experienced one-on-one in private. Please reach out if you would like more information.
My intent with this blog is to share the learnings and resources that have been the most helpful to me on my journey to my highest self, with the hope that you find them to be helpful, too!